The stodgy English-lingo title is easily parodied, but “Alicia, Go Yonder” is a light-toned debut about a 19-year-old Mexican who heads to Patagonia to assuage her wanderlust and find herself. Largely improvised and unrehearsed, the pic has a winning freshness culminating in a lovely sequence that captures the joys of connecting with a fellow spirit. Helmer Elisa Miller plays with modes of seeing, including video diaries and Super 8, to achieve the nicely subjective sensation of a young woman’s inchoate thoughts gradually finding their focus. “Alicia” will go forth and prosper at fests and streaming sites.
Temporal shifts initially require auds to work out the here and now (it’s not difficult). Alicia (Sofia Espinosa) says an emotional goodbye to her parents and boards a plane for Buenos Aires with the vague idea of spending a few months in Argentina before returning around Christmas. She gets her hair cut short, works as a dog walker and takes acrobat classes, but when practicing with a trapeze, she’s unable to make the required leap into empty space.
Homesickness is tugging away, but before returning to Mexico, Alicia determined to go to southern Patagonia. Once there, feeling even more alone and melancholic, she meets a guy (Martin Piroyansky, “XXY”) also drawn to the glaciers.
The story is slight and the running time refreshingly slim, but Miller, whose short “Watching It Rain” won the 2007 Palme d’Or, enters into the uncertain world of a 19-year-old with great sensitivity. P.o.v. scenes shot through windows, windshields and other qualifying lenses, including a glass dessert cloche, creatively and subtly convey Alicia’s desire for full immersion. Yet, as demonstrated by the failed trapeze attempt, she’s not able to throw herself into the void quite yet.
In a video diary, the guy she meets asks himself, “Why do I think the way I do, see things the way I do?” Like Alicia, he’s frustrated by life’s subjectivity, trying to negotiate how to come to terms with all his options when he’s not even sure what his desires are. Miller doesn’t solve these questions for her characters but instead gives them space for their emotions, using means of perception to signal the exploration.
Thesps Espinosa and Piroyansky are effortlessly natural and have a great chemistry together once they finally meet, validating Miller’s decision to forego rehearsals for a more spontaneous feel. Handheld lensing is assured, and together with d.p. Maria Jose Secco (“Cold Water of the Sea”), the helmer has a striking eye for everyday images as well as the more spectacular expanses of ice and snow in Patagonia’s nether-regions.